Monday, August 4, 2014

More plants setting fruit and some blushing in the hot July weather

July 2014 was unusually hot, with most days in the 80s, and even a week in the high-80s and low-90s. Overnight lows were in the mid- to high-50s. When temperatures started heating up, I removed the black plastic over the tomato beds, and as the days got hotter, the plants really took off.

On July 10th I planted the last of the seedlings, putting two each of the Big Isis Candy and Mini Cherokee Purple in the second tomato bed. The plants were about 12-15" tall, so I buried the roots and most of the stem in a shallow trench angled up, so only about 6" was above ground. I also planted one seedling each of Spudakee and Black and Red Boar, but they were only about 6" tall, so only their rootballs were buried leaving 5-6" above ground. I added a sprinkling of Mycorrhizal Fungi to the roots of each plant then fertilized with Tomato-tone and watered deeply.

By July 7th all 15 plants planted in early June had set fruit, over 121 total not counting the 100+ fruit on the Sungold. By July 16th, they had set 221 fruit, again not counting the fruit on Sungold. Sun Sugar had set the second highest number with 52 fruit, still way behind Sungold. While the earliest fruit on Sungold started blushing by June 25th, the earliest fruit on Sun Sugar did not start blushing until July 16th. The flavor was very sweet, similar to Sungold's. Both plants were planted from 1 gallon containers, but the Sungold gets several more hours of sun compared to the Sun Sugar. Even tomatoes believe in location, location, location!

Fruit on Sun Sugar blushing on July 16th

Matt's Wild Cherry and Chadwick had the next highest fruit set by July 16th, with 30 and 29 fruit respectively. Matt's Wild Cherry were already red-orange by July 16th while the earliest fruit on Chadwick did not start blushing until July 28th. The tiny 0.1 oz. (1/2" in diameter) Matt's fruit were delicious, with a very strong tomatoey flavor, while the 0.7-0.8 oz. Chadwick fruit had a much milder, somewhat acidic flavor. I will definitely save seed and grow the Matt's Wild Cherry in the future. However, unless the Chadwick's flavor improves later in the season, it will not be making my short list for next year.

Fruit ripening on Matt's Wild Cherry by July 16th

Fruit on Chadwick started blushing on July 28th

The next most prolific plant, with 23 fruit set by July 16th, was supposed to be Japanese Trifele Black. However, the fruit forming did not have the characteristic pear shape of JTB, so I suspected it was something else. In any case, it is definitely an extra early variety since it started blushing on July 16th.

Fruit on the Not JTB started blushing on July 16th

By July 28th more fruit had also begun blushing and ripening on the Not JTB

Most of the Not JTB fruit have a starburst pattern on the blossom end, so it might be Glacier. Many images of Glacier show a similar starburst pattern. I've never grown Glacier before, but I grew Kimberley in 2012, and the fruit on Kimberley are not quite as round and usually have a pointy edge. Of course, that was in 2012 when we had a much colder summer, so the pointy end may have been a product of the cold weather. In any case the Not JTB flavor was very similar to the mild flavor of the Chadwick and the Kimberley I grew in 2012.

Of the other cherry varieties, Black Cherry and Isis Candy had only set 12 and 10 fruit, respectively, by July 16th. The earliest fruit on Black Cherry started blushing by July 25th, but the Isis Candy still had no fruit blushing by the end of the month. 

Of the larger varieties the Jet Star had set the most fruit, 17 fruit by July 25th. The largest fruit were about 4-4.5" in diameter, and the earliest fruit started blushing by late July. 

The earliest 4" fruit started blushing on Jet Star on July 28th

By July 16th the three Cherokee Purple plants had set 7, 9, and 11 fruit, respectively, while the two Paul Robeson plants had set 10 and 3 fruit, respectively, by July 16th. 

The largest fruit on Cherokee Purple were about 2.5-3" in diameter by July 16th

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tomato plants loving the heat and setting fruit

This has been an unusually warm and dry summer, with high temperatures in June mostly in the low to mid-70s and even high-70s by the last week, with overnight lows in the mid-50s.

By the end of June, many of the tomato plants had already set fruit. By June 25th Sungold had set the most, with 20 fruit that were 1 cm or larger. Its first fruit even began blushing by June 25th, about 2 1/2 weeks earlier than in 2013 even though the Sungold planted was slightly smaller and was only planted 10 days earlier than the year before. The other cherry tomatoes (Chadwick, Sun Sugar, Black Cherry, and Matt's Wild Cherry) had also set fruit by June 25th.

By June 21st the Sungold plant had several trusses of fruit

By June 25th fruit were blushing on the Sungold

By June 21st Sun Sugar also had several trusses of fruit

By June 21st Chadwick also had set several fruit on a truss

Of the larger varieties, only Jet Star, Japanese Trifele Black, and Green Zebra had set fruit by June 25th, but the other larger varieties (Cherokee Purple, Paul Robeson, and Moscovich) had a few trusses with open flowers.

Green Zebra with several fruit on June 21st

Japanese Trifele Black with several fruit on June 21st 

Japanese Trifele Black with several fruit on June 25th 

Jet Star with several large fruit on June 21st

The largest fruit on Jet Star was about 2.5" in diameter on June 25th

Saturday, June 21, 2014

2014 Grow List of Early Tomatoes

This year I started my seedlings in Ziploc bags on April 8th, then I transplanted them into 2" starter cells, but I had a few problems this year. The Blush, Big Isis Candy F2, and Mini Cherokee Purple F2 all dried out, so I restarted them in Ziploc bags on May 3rd. Next, the EB Stone Seed Starter Mix I used stayed too wet, and most of the other seedlings rotted. I was able to recover the following:
  • 3 Mini Cherokee Purple
  • 3 Big Isis Candy
  • a Black and Red Boar
  • a Spudakee

These were repotted in Miracle Gro Seed Starting Mix. They're now about 2-4" tall. 

Since the weather was warming up, with typical highs in the mid-60s to mid-70s, I decided to cheat and buy starters from the farmers market and Sky Nursery. These are the tomato plants I picked:

Cherry Tomatoes
  • Sungold (1 gal.) - Farmers Market
  • Sun Sugar (1 gal.) - MJD Dist. Garden Center
  • Matt's Wild Cherry (4" pot) - Farmers Market
  • Isis Candy (4" pot) - Sky Nursery
  • Black Cherry (4" pot) - Sky Nursery
  • Chadwick (4" pot) - Farmers Market

Black Tomatoes
  • Cherokee Purple (3 plants from 4" pots) - Farmers Market
  • Paul Robeson (2 plants from 4" pots) - Sky Nursery
  • Japanese Trifele Black (4" pot) - Farmers Market

  • Jet Star F1 (1 gal.) - Sky Nursery
  • Green Zebra (4" pot) - Farmers Market
  • Moskvich (4" pot) - Farmers Market

I usually put black plastic on the ground 5-6 weeks before I plant out the tomatoes, but I was really disorganized this year and just put the black plastic over the beds when I planted the starts. I also have PVC hoops over my tomato beds and usually put clear plastic over them to keep them warmer, but since our highs have been in the mid-60s to mid-70s, with lows in the low-50s, I've kept them uncovered and just put 2L bottles full of water beside each plant to keep them warmer at night. The plants were about 8-12" tall when I planted them on June 2nd and June 4th using Mycorrhizal Fungi and EB Stone Tomato and Vegetable Food, and many had flowers on them while the Sungold and Jet Star already had fruit.